Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is in Tampa today, Monday, January 13, for an ObamaCare outreach event, and she owes Floridians an answer. Why should taxpayers have to bail out health insurance companies in the increasingly likely event that ObamaCare leaves them with financial losses?
The answer should be simple. Whatever larger differences we have about ObamaCare, we should completely eliminate any chance of a taxpayer-funded bailout for health insurers.
Unfortunately, this possibility exists and is growing more likely by the day.
Washington’s authority for this bailout was buried deep inside ObamaCare, in the law’s section 1342. This provision authorized what are known as risk corridors that limit the amount of profit insurers could extract from the program and, most significantly, limit their losses.
This means that if not enough people sign up for ObamaCare, insurers will lose money and taxpayers will make up the difference. If not enough young and healthy people sign up, as is currently the case, taxpayers will have to pay even more.
This is government favoritism and corporate cronyism at its worst, and it’s taxpayers that will pay the price unless we stop it.
Now that health insurance companies have begun filing key disclosure documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), we see clear evidence that we’re heading for an ObamaCare bailout.
For example, one insurer has disclosed that “as a result of the December 2013 federal and state regulatory changes allowing certain individuals to remain in their previously existing off-exchange health plans, the Company now expects the risk mix of members enrolling through the health insurance exchanges to be more adverse than previously expected.”
By law, health insurers are leveling with their shareholders about how ObamaCare will hurt their bottom line. Now President Obama, Secretary Sebelius and ObamaCare’s supporters should level with American taxpayers about the law’s true costs and eliminate any chance for a bailout.
Unfortunately, we can’t just take the administration’s word that it won’t happen. Congress has to act, and it should approve legislation I’ve introduced to repeal ObamaCare’s risk corridor provision and stop any bailout. At just a page long, my bill is simple but would instantly wipe away the taxpayer's exposure to millions – and potentially billions – of dollars' worth of a bailout for insurance companies.
If the only way ObamaCare works is with a taxpayer-funded bailout of insurers, it’s yet another clear sign that the law can’t survive and isn’t worth saving.
While in office, I have worked with others to protect Americans from ObamaCare's damage – as patients, taxpayers, consumers and workers. While some immediate relief is possible, it's become clear that all of ObamaCare's damage can't be prevented forever, unless the law is repealed and replaced with market-based reforms that will make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans.
However, this law isn’t simply bad health policy. It has given a dysfunctional Washington that does few things right even more power and control over many aspects of our lives and our economy. It is strangling people’s dreams of a better life for themselves and their children and, in doing so, suffocating the American Dream.
ObamaCare needs to go, but at least in the meantime, Congress needs to protect taxpayers from an ObamaCare bailout of insurers by wiping away this possibility from the law.
Republican Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.